So for a very long time (until I finally begged M to deliver diversions) I did one of my very favorite things: I stared at her. I studied the tiny clear hairs across her cheek. I noted the jut in her outer ear, just like mine. I followed the tiny hairs up her sideburn and across her forehead, and I traced the whorl they make above her left eyebrow, the one that is a photocopy of her sister's.
Do you ever spend a Saturday afternoon pondering that DNA even concerns itself with invisible-hair over-eyebrow clockwise whorls?
I looked at her eyelashes that, thanks to the surgery, aren't perpetually glued together and I looked at the curve of her eye under the lid, marveling that it arcs just like her father's. I played with her hair and I pulled the afghan up over her feet every time she kicked it off but when it slipped from her midsection, I rubbed her belly for a few minutes before reasserting its modesty.
When a baby belly slides out in front of you, you have to rub it. There's nothing softer. Diamonds are the hardest thing and baby belly skin is the softest thing and don't bother reminding me she's 17 months old, because that's my baby, sleeping right there in her Mama's arms.
So I held my baby, the arrogant little creature who looked at me and thought, hmm, looks like a soft and comfy place to stretch out, who rightly assumed that if she'd sack out upon me I'd just let her, ignoring my belly and my bladder and the numbness in the bottom half of my hand just that she be comfortable, warm and happy. Her sister was asleep upstairs and I could - I could just sit and hold her. So I did. And I looked at her and I watched her dream and I dreamed about her and for her and wondered and imagined and guessed at the kaleidoscope of what might be, because who knows when I'll have the quiet privileged opportunity again.
In one of my writing classes in college, which at a little over a decade ago was just long enough that for our writing classes we brought paper and we brought pens and none of us, not at my state school, anyway, none of us had laptops, and we actually wrote, I once had an exercise on my thumbnail. As in, "would the right-handed students look at their left thumbnails and would the left-handed students look at their right thumbnails. Good, look at your thumbnail. Now write about it until this timer goes off, which won't happen for another 60 minutes, now GO." At first I thought I'd never be able to keep writing. I looked at my nail and I began with a literal description. "smaller than a penny," I began. "ridged, with a moon." But quickly those ridges were little mountains and as do all proper mountain ranges, this one had a crescent moon right there hanging at its apex, and soon I was describing villages, and lives and stories, not literally, but in the microscope of what could be. My pen was still moving when the timer bzzzzed.
You look at things long enough, you see whole worlds inside them. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.